Students in class
Secor Gardens Academy’s short tenure in Toledo came to an abrupt end, as the school closed its doors over the weekend because of financial struggles.
The charter school, which opened in the fall, was based in the back of the Armory Church, 3319 Nebraska Ave. School Superintendent Samuel Hancock and others involved with the school realized the school’s finances had become untenable, said James Lahoski, superintendent of North Central Ohio Educational Service Center, the school’s sponsor.
“[Mr.] Hancock and the Secor Gardens personnel determined they were unable to meet the financial requirements that it takes to run a community school, and made a determination they needed to close,” Mr. Lahoski said.
Enrollment was “awfully low,” he said, though he could not provide a figure. Because of the lack of students — and the state funding that comes with enrollment — the school would not be able to make its next payroll.
Toledo Public Schools administrators said several parents contacted Keyser Elementary on Monday to report that Secor Gardens had closed abruptly with little notice and asking to register students at Keyser. Parents were notified by staff over the weekend about the closure, Mr. Lahoski said.
The shuttering of Secor Gardens likely would have been little noticed other than to parents. The school had a low profile. It had no Web site and little visibility from the street; its parking lot and entrance were in the back of the Armory Church.
A message left at the school Monday afternoon was not returned.
Secor Gardens was one of three charter schools opened this school year with North Central Ohio Educational Service Center as a sponsor. The center has had several schools close this year, including two near Columbus the state forced shut in October for “health and safety reasons.”
Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, said at the time the schools provided poor oversight, failed to ensure student safety or adequately feed students, and were academically poor.
“It is unacceptable and intolerable that a sponsor and school would do such a poor job,” he had said. “It is an educational travesty.”
According to an October release from the Ohio Department of Education, the center tried to open 16 community schools this school year, “including six schools that either failed to open or have been shuttered within a few weeks of opening, four schools that should never have opened as they were closed or not renewed by other sponsors, and at least four schools that are suffering from fiscal problems.”
Several others owed the state money because of inflated enrollment estimates.
Mr. Lahoski defended the center’s performance as a sponsor, saying it’s difficult for start-up charter schools to survive without guaranteed enrollment. “These community schools project what they believe they are going to get with enrollment, and if the numbers aren’t there, the revenue streams aren’t there,” he said.
He said the center takes compliance issues seriously, and had no problem with ending a relationship with a school that did not perform to expectations.